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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is School Still Educational?

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. -- Plato
Legislation was proposed in 1995 in Colorado to do away with "compulsory education." I was interviewed by Colorado Public Radio regarding my position on the issue. I asked for clarification: What was the proposal? Was it to do away with state-mandated educational requirements, thus reopening the door to the child labor abuses that abounded in the last century? Or was it to do away with compulsory school attendance?

My interviewer wasn't sure. He said he thought the voters of Colorado were tired of seeing more and more of their educational tax dollars go to dealing with kids who make trouble because they don't want to be there in the first place.

I said that I thought that noncompulsory school attendance was probably a morally preferable situation to the present practice. But the Colorado proposal would be like scratching an itch with a scalpel.

Unless schools can reject students whose parents want them to attend, the problem of undermotivated, distracted students would not necessarily be addressed. In any case, it is not clear how student-on-student abuse will be affected by even a change to non-compulsory schooling so long as educators persist in avoiding moral commitment.

To examine these issues further, see Fear in the Classroom 
Is Schooling Still Sufficiently Educational?

Cordially,
-- EGR